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Apple 'iWatch' trademark filing hints Cook's make-or-break moment looms

Japanese filing portent of product announcement, or mere protectionist play?

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Apple is said to have filed a trademark application for the term "iWatch" in Japan – just a few weeks after it reportedly did the same in Russia – thus fueling rumors that, yes, Cupertino is indeed planning a move into what CEO Tim Cook calls "wearables."

Apple filed for the trademark on June 3, and the filing was made public last Thursday, reports The Wall Street Journal (paid subscription required). The category in which it was filed, the WSJ writes, is for a "computer or watch device" – and if the iWatch rumors that have been coursing about recently are in any way accurate, it'd be both.

Of course, the filing may not be related to an impending Apple iWatch release at all. It may, instead, be merely a move to tie up the name so that Cupertino's busy legal team can maintain control over it, product plans or no product plans – and needless to say, Apple is not one to tip its hand as to those plans. Or the lack of them.

But the wearable-tech concept is a-bubblin'. The first iWatch rumor that we've been able to turn up in the Vulture Archives surfaced over a dozen years ago, but recent rumors, reports, and patent filings have cranked the nuclear-powered hypegasmator up to 11 in recent months.

Cook added his own fuel to the fire when speaking at an AllThingsD soirée in May, when he said that he found wearable tech to be "incredibly interesting" and that the market was "ripe for exploration."

As far as what is available in that market – or soon to be widely available, as will be Google Glass – Cook was dismissive. "There are lots of wearables," he said, "but of the ones doing more than one thing, I haven't seen anything great out there."

If he was talking about, say, Sony's Android SmartWatch, we'd have to agree. About Google Glass, the jury is still out, but the computer-in-your-face idea never made much sense to your humble Reg reporter – although he does readily admit to swiftly advancing old-fogeyism.

One thing, however, is inarguable. Should Apple release an iWatch – even if only in gadget-happy Japan as a test market – it had better be a runaway hit. Apple is increasingly having to battle the perception that it has lost its creative mojo (that sanctimonious "California" advert didn't help), and the long knives of the haters are gleefully being honed to a razor's edge.

It's equally inarguable that in terms of not only market share but also market creation, Apple hit it out of the park with the iPhone and the iPad. But that was when there was another man running the team.

Your move, Mr. Cook. Will it be an iWatch? A big screen TV? Something that the rumor mill hasn't yet picked up?

Whatever it is, it had better be good – for your own career's sake, especially. ®

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